Eating raw fish, shaving heads completely bald, downing a combination of drinks designed to instil vomiting… Sound disgusting? These are some of the ‘challenges’ that Hall committee members at Loughborough University have previously set upon the candidates at ‘Hustings’.
The purpose of Hustings is for the rest of the Hall to watch the candidates on stage give a speech and show their Campaign Week videos, as well as completing challenges, all in a bid to gain votes from their Hall peers to be on the new committee. Hustings is a couple of hours of ostensible fun, in which the hall can come and watch the candidates being thrown up on, slapped, and eat all manner of foods. The question is, is this a demoralising event or just a bit of fun for the students involved? Is this extra section of Hustings of having to perform (usually disgusting) tasks, such as taking shots of bodily fluids, really necessary to gain votes?
I spoke to a male student, an observer of this year’s Hustings, and he suggested that “Hustings can go too far…you should be able to come away unscathed. Is it really that important that you have to shave your hair off?” Last year, some of the halls’ Hustings were deemed inappropriate, over the top and too demoralising, the consequence being that this year Halls were told to tone it down by the University. After the University banned any tasks being enforced directly by the committee, candidates themselves had to choose their own challenges.
However, this year saw no lessening of the disgusting tasks the candidates performed in front of their peers. Whilst the candidates chose themselves what they were going to do this year, the fact that the majority of candidates still tended to veer towards challenges such as downing shots of dubious substances, eating raw fish, and having a mixture of fish guts, eggs and cat food thrown over them, suggests that they feel this is the only way to gain votes.
However, the majority of this year’s candidates and observers I spoke to were either on the fence or simply saw it as a fun experience. The question could be raised as to whether anything really needs to change. My experience of this year’s Hustings was that yes, they were certainly disgusting, but no one seemed seriously affected by it (bar the smell of some of the candidates afterwards). Students seemed to find the whole event hilarious. One female candidate I spoke to said “I just see Hustings as fun! It is also another bonding opportunity within the Hall for all the people campaigning.”
Another candidate thought:
“It was all a bit of fun. It was funny, inventive and fun to watch. No matter how demoralising they may have seemed to certain people it is all for fun at the end of the day.”
It seems to an extent that between the observers and the candidates themselves, it is the latter that seem to appreciate Hustings simply as a fun event. One female observer of this year’s Hustings I asked stated that:
“Whilst the dressing up is harmlessly entertaining, I felt the shaving of people’s heads a bit far. I suppose if that is what they are willing to do… Although, I don’t believe university life would be the same without Hustings.”
It could be suggested that the jeering and peer pressure that comes from everyone watching is actually one of the worst traits of Hustings, rather than the challenges. Surely candidates should not be penalised if they refuse to do something disgusting, painful or shocking just to try and gain votes.
Whilst Hustings is, after all, meant to be a fun event in which members of the Hall can all come together, it could be questioned as to whether there is a more dignified and mature way of promoting yourself to gain votes. After all, being on committee for your Hall is an asset to your CV and requires time and effort – are these messy Hustings really necessary?
The latest Hustings did not seem to have caused controversy as they did last year and yet, whilst it was ultimately down to the students as to how far they were going to go to gain votes, the fact that many felt the need to do nauseating and revolting challenges suggests the pressure that we as observers are placing on them may be at the root of their decision.